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June swoons: Which players are most responsible for poor months for these five contenders?

Over a six-month season, every team is going to have a ‘small-sample-size’ swoon. On the north side of Chicago, they refer to this annual dip as “June.” 

And right on schedule, the Cubs followed their stellar May with a “meh” June, allowing the Brewers to catch and pass them atop the NL Central. But the Cubs aren’t the only team wishing this month had played out differently. 

Let’s look at five teams that would press the restart button on June — if that was a thing — and the players most responsible for the dips and dives. 

Chicago Cubs

June record: 11-10

Quick thoughts: Yes, they’re still over .500 this month. But, two things: It’s literally impossible to use the phrase without talking about the Cubs, and that 11-10 record is swoonerific compared to their stellar 19-8 record in May.  

Most important drop-off: Kris Bryant (.133 average, .485 OPS, 3 extra-base hits in 18 games). Bryant’s resurgence the first two months of the season was a huge reason the Cubs had rather unexpectedly spent time atop the NL Central. That .485 OPS in June is less than half of what it was through the end of May (1.016). Yikes.

Supporting swooners: Jason Heyward (.475 OPS), Jake Arrieta (9.00 ERA in four starts), Javier Baez (.457 OPS), Ian Happ (.443 OPS)

Tampa Bay Rays

June record: 9-11

Quick thoughts: The Rays had the AL’s best record heading into June; they’re now behind the Astros, White Sox, Red Sox and A’s in that race. The month started well enough, but that seven-game losing streak — four walk-off losses in those seven games! — was just brutal.

Most important drop-off: Pete Fairbanks (4.66 ERA, 0-3 record). Yeah, maybe it isn’t right (fair?) to pick Fairbanks. But he was on the mound for two of those four walk-off losses, plus another L. For the first one, the Magic Runner scored in the 10th on a groundout and a single. The second one was more his actual fault (no Magic Runner); he came in for the save in the ninth and allowed a walk and three base hits, which resulted in two runs and a loss. In the third loss, he escaped the Magic Runner in the 10th, but allowed four runs in the top of the 11th in a 9-5 loss to the Red Sox.

Supporting swooners: Michael Wacha (7.56 ERA in three starts), Brett Phillips (.115 avg, .454 OPS), Ji-Man Choi (.397 OPS)

St. Louis Cardinals

June record: 6-14

Quick thoughts: It’s been an ugly, ugly month under the shadow of the Arch. Injuries haven’t helped, but it’s the inconsistency that’s been maddening for Cardinals fans. They were a half-game out of the NL Central lead when the month started, and now they’re in fourth place, 5 1/2 back of the first-place Brewers. 

Most important drop-off: Tommy Edman (.250 on-base percentage, 15/1 K/9 ratio). As Edman goes, so go the Cardinals. For the season, he’s batting .338 with a .395 on-base percentage in Cardinals wins; he’s batting .203 with a .232 on-base percentage in the loss. And you see his OBP this month. His first walk in June didn’t happen until Wednesday. 

Supporting swooners: John Gant (8.10 ERA, 17 BB in 20 IP), Paul De Jong (.105 avg, .375 OPS), Carlos Martinez (15.34 ERA), Yadier Molina (.414 OPS) 

Chicago White Sox

June record: 11-9

Quick thoughts: Look, a lot is expected of the ChiSox, and a record hovering near .500 is a disappointing stretch. Their margin for error is higher than most teams — the AL Central ain’t great — so a hiccup like that isn’t devastating.  

Most important drop-off: Jose Abreu (.179 avg, .502 OPS, 1 HR). The 2020 AL MVP is the big thumper in the middle of the lineup, and he hasn’t been his most productive self. He’s typically been really good in June; in five of his first six Junes, his average topped .300 and his OPS topped .830, but that hasn’t been the case in 2021.

Supporting swooners: Yermin Mercedes (.134 avg, .330 OPS), Dylan Cease (5.55 ERA in five starts), Andrew Vaughn (.242 on-base, 5 RBI), Garrett Crochet (6.00 ERA in seven relief appearances)

San Diego Padres

June record: 11-11

Quick thoughts: Yeah, I know it feels weird to put the Padres on this list after that sweep of the Dodgers. But they’re still just .500 in June even after that rousing series. 

Most important drop-off: Eric Hosmer (.167 average, .447 OPS, 3 extra-base hits in 22 games). When Hosmer’s batting fifth — his typical spot — he’s been either directly behind Manny Machado or Fernando Tatis, Jr., and he has to be productive so opposing pitchers don’t work around the Padres’ best two hitters. He has not been productive lately, to say the least. 

Supporting swooners: Trent Grisham (.128) Jurickson Profar (.109), Emelio Pagan (6.10 ERA; allowed ER in five of 11 relief outings)

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